Since it’s a beautiful Saturday here on the east coast, this will be brief, or so I hope. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
76ers shock Celtics
Three points and then I’ll be done. First, Andre Iquodala! Who knew? After a dismal 1st half and a lousy 3rd quarter, Iquodala came to life in the 4th quarter and carried the 76ers to a shocking Game 4 victory to even their series with Boston at two. As someone who’s been as hard on Iquodala as anyone since he signed that massive contract, it was nice to see him step into the superhero role last night. Even better, it was nice to see him earn all that money he’s being paid in such a critical game. I’ve always criticized Iquodala for thinking he’s a superstar and carrying himself like one on the court to the detriment of the team. On Friday night, he played the role of superstar perfectly. The big three to tie the game with three minutes left, the crucial fade away at the elbow to give Philly a two point lead, and of course, the dagger corner three to seal the deal were all Kobe-esque. It was Philadelphia’s most clutch basketball performance since Allen Iverson clowned Tyron Lue in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.
Second, the Celtics are dumb. When they play with urgency and intensity, the 76ers can’t compete. Yet, for whatever reason, the Celtics continue to either show up late or check out early in the NBA Playoffs. Friday night looked an awful lot like the Celtics Game 6 against Atlanta in the 1st round. Only this time, the 76ers made the Celtics pay and stole a huge game. Even worse for Boston, the series is now guaranteed to go six and possibly seven games. Had the Celtics closed out Game 4, they’d be heading to Boston for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead. It’s unlikely the 76ers win an elimination game in Boston. As a result, the Celtics would have extended time to rest and get healthy while the Pacers and Heat continue their rugby match. Instead, the Celtics won’t have any extended down time between series, if they even advance at all.
Third, the Celtics are playing with fire. They had the 76ers right where they wanted them after Game 3; dejected with no confidence. You could see early in Game 4 the 76ers accepted the fact that the Celtics were simply the better team. While Philly never quit, the swagger they had after Game 2 was long gone. By collapsing in Game 4, the Celtics gave it all back and then some. Young teams are unpredictable. When you beat them down, they’re likely to go away. However, when you hand them a win in dramatic fashion, the ensuing life/confidence/belief becomes contagious. Three days ago the 76ers believed they could compete in this series. As of 12 hours ago, the 76ers believe they can win this series. That’s a big problem for the decrepit and inconsistent Celtics.
Lakers win Game 3
I got a little wordy in my excitement about the 76ers, so let’s make this quick and to the point. What’s going through the heads of the Thunder? Are they thinking they’re still the better team after losing a close Game 3. Or, are they questioning themselves after coming oh-so-close to losing two games in row? If it weren’t for a Laker collapse, this is a 2-1 series in favor of Los Angeles. It’s popular to crown the Thunder the victor in this series and argue the Lakers only won Game 3 out of desperation and with a huge assist from the officials. Not quite. (Ok, so the huge assist from the officials is accurate. In fact, it probably equaled 10 assists.)
Regardless, I still believe the Lakers have outplayed the Thunder for the better part of the last two games, and that’s without Andrew Bynum or Paul Gasol dominating. Game 3 was a vintage Kobe Bryant performance. He gutted the Lakers to that win. Also, there’s a reason the Thunder has struggled from the field in the last two games. Los Angeles has been physical with the Thunder’s big three and the Thunder doesn’t have a role player to spark the team off the bench. (James Harden is not a role player.)
I’m not ready to declare the Thunder in trouble, but I’m willing to accept Charles Barkley may have been right all along; the Thunder can’t win a title shooting jumpers.